April 8, 2009— -- Meet the newest Six Million Dollar Man.
Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence, who lost an eye in a childhood accident, is determined to replace his artificial eye with a video camera and said he's almost there.
Like the fictional bionic man, Spence wants to transform his loss into a superhuman strength. But instead of using his enhanced ability for secret agent-type espionage, he wants to use it for his art.
Calling himself an "eyeborg," the 36-year-old, who is originally from California, wants to produce videos with his camera eye that explore privacy and surveillance issues. As surveillance and other hidden cameras increasingly monitor our daily lives, Spence wants his unusual perspective to serve as a check.
"We're sleepwalking into an Orwellian society," he said. "There's surveillance, but who's doing the surveillance. Who's watching the watchers?"
Last week, for the first time, he and his team succeeded in outfitting his prosthetic eye with an electronic device.
Although it wasn't yet a camera, the red LED gave them (and potential supporters) confidence that a prosthetic eye could house a working device and battery.
"This is every adult male's fantasy," Spence quipped. And though it's a minor detour, he hopes it will draw attention to grander plans.
Spence lost his eye when he was 11 years old. He was playing with a gun at his grandfather's farm in Ireland; when it backfired, it severely injured his eye. Years later, he had his eye removed.
As a filmmaker, wanting to turn his eye into a camera is only natural, he said.
He's been working with his ocularist and a couple of camera companies for a while, but launched a blog in November to officially announce his plans.
In January, he migrated his blogspot to a dot-com and revealed the Eyeborg Project.
Along with Kostas Grammatis, a former SpaceX avionics systems engineer who joined the project after reading a Wired story about him in December, Spence is working with Santa Clara, Calif.-based Omnivision, Inc., and RF-Links in Toronto to develop the working camera eye.